Posts tagged ‘New York’

September 18, 2013

Going to all-digital textbooks saves money for private high school students

by Grace

A move to replace paper textbooks with digital versions will save some New York private high school students hundreds of dollars each year.

Stepinac has become one of the first high schools in the country to drop all textbooks like dead weight and replace them with a “digital library.” When students started classes Monday, they were zipping to an app or website on their tablet or laptop and had instant access to all 40 texts in the Stepinac curriculum, not to mention all sorts of note-taking, highlighting and interactive features….

In the past, students’ families had to spend up to $700 a year on textbooks. This year — after the one-time purchase of a tablet or laptop — families have to pay $150 for access to the digital library.

The high school worked out a unique deal with Pearson.

Stepinac officials worked for a year with Pearson, the giant education company that has long dominated the textbook world, to design and create a unique digital library that is bound to be studied by other private and public schools.

The transition will inevitably come with some problems.

The first few weeks may bring some challenges.

Stepinac officials expect to encounter some parental discomfort over dropping books with spines. They recognize there may be technical glitches at first. And they will have to encourage students to leave space-eating photos and music off their tablets — and to keep their devices charged.

I wonder if many students will miss the illustrations and images from their old math and history books.  Even if they do, I suspect it won’t take too long to get used to the new digital format.

Although this exact model wouldn’t work for most colleges, I foresee a similar transition for higher education.

Related:  Save money on college textbooks by using Kindle (Cost of College)

May 8, 2013

Quick Links – Public pension problems round-up

by Grace

IN NEW YORK, PENSION COSTS ARE OVERPOWERING THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS’ ABILITY TO MAINTAIN STUDENT SERVICES.

Our local public schools must cut student services to pay soaring pension costs.

The budget numbers tell the story:

  • Total school costs will increase 3.3% over last year.
  • Cost of teacher pensions alone will increase 42%.
  • Pension costs account for at least 75% of the total budget increase.*
  • To pay for the 42% increase in teacher pension costs, the school will cut teaching staff and increase class sizes.

Public schools throughout the state are in a similar situation.   “Retirement and insurance costs continue their relentless climb”, causing a nearby district to cut 30 jobs.  Another local school administrator explains their pension costs:

Almost 80 percent of the hike comes from a $3.5 million rise in state-mandated retirement expenses, Purvis said.

* Total employee benefits costs account for 96% of the total budget increase.

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A SPECIAL EXEMPTION ALLOWS TAX INCREASES THAT EXCEED TAX CAP LIMITS AS LONG AS THOSE PAYMENTS ARE USED TO PAY FOR PUBLIC EMPLOYEE PENSIONS.

The New York property tax cap introduced two years ago includes a carve-out created to allow tax increases that pay for teacher pensions to be exempted from the cap.  As it turns out, this exemption has been the main reason for the average tax increase more than doubling above the 2% statutory base cap up to 4.6% .

The additional increase is driven entirely by a provision of the 2011 tax cap law that excludes a portion of increased employee pension costs from the limit on tax levy increases. Without the pension-related increase, the 2013-14 levy limit statewide would average 2.7 percent, including all other district-specific exclusions and allowances for voter-approved capital expenses and physical additions to the local tax base, along with factors such as growth in the tax base and net changes in the value of payment in lieu of tax (PILOT) agreements.

The pension exclusion hurts poor school districts the most because the calculation method especially affects communities with lower property values.

… the pension exclusion in the tax cap law effectively makes it easier for school districts to raise taxes on property owners who can least afford it.

… The pension provision—added at the insistence of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver—diminishes the protection the law was supposed to provide for some of the state’s poorest taxpayers.

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NEW YORK’S ‘STOPGAP’ SOLUTION TO PENSION CRISIS CARRIES ‘LONG-TERM RISKS’.

A “pension-smoothing” provision was recently introduced in New York, allowing school districts to postpone full funding of pension liabilities.

Moody’s does not look favorably on this plan to kick the can down the road.

Moody’s Investors Services warned Monday that the state’s new pension-smoothing plan is “a stopgap with long-term risks” that could endanger the state’s pension fund and the credit of local governments.

The plan, part of the state budget approved last month, allows for local governments and schools to essentially pay a flat rate for pension costs over 12 years, avoiding the steep cost increases that the municipalities have faced.

Opening the door to future underfunding of pension liabilities

Moody’s says that the concern is the flat-rate payments could underfund the state’s roughly $150 billion pension fund, which provides benefits to 1 million retirees and current local and state workers. That could lead to higher costs for municipalities and schools in future years, the credit agency said.

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PUBLIC PENSION HORROR STORIES FROM ILLINOIS AND FROM CALIFORNIA CONJURE UP TROUBLING IMAGES.

 20130505.COCPython1

 In Illinois, public pensions already gobbling up education funding

… Education funding is being strangled by the same python that is strangling the rest of state government’s finances: pension obligations….


20130505.COCPacman1

 “The pension costs really are the Pacman that’s eating our budget,” Shirey said.

March 20, 2013

Quick Links – Pay to play in New York; academic standards rule at elite colleges; Massachusetts charter schools

by Grace

◊◊◊  Pay to play outlawed in N.Y., for now (lohud.com)

Unlike most states, including nearby Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, New York does not currently allow schools to charge students extra to participate in extracurricular programs.  But as the tax cap continues to put pressure on school spending, New York might join other states in requiring students to “pay to play”.

State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, expresses the concerns of many.

“I believe extracurricular activities provide children with extra opportunities and extra potential for learning. There’s enough disparity for poor families. They already have a disadvantage,” she said. “In my mind, pay-to-play means we all pay later on.”

The rules vary widely across the country, with some states/districts only requiring athletes to pay.  Even in New York, the spirit of the law seems to be violated in some cases.  For example, a student must pay $90 or sell program ads as a condition of participating in our local high school play.  Isn’t that a form of pay-to-play?

◊◊◊  In their first cut for admissions, academic standards rule for most elite colleges.

Before they’re holistic, colleges look at grades and test scores.

… The most common winnowing process (used by 76 percent of the colleges that answered Rubin) is some measure of academic merit. This may be based on grades, rigor of high school courses, test scores and so forth. While there is some difference in the relative weight given to various factors, there is a straightforward value on doing better than others in whatever formula the college uses.

The survey included responses from “63 of the 75 most competitive colleges, mostly private, with just a few public flagships”.

◊◊◊  Massachusetts has seen a 20% increase in charter enrollment over the last four years.

Legislation to eliminate a cap on the number of charter schools has been proposed by Democrat state senators.

BOSTON—Massachusetts lawmakers are considering eliminating a cap on the number of charter schools that can operate in the lowest-performing school districts, including here in the capital city.

While other states also have weighed lifting caps, charter advocates point to left-leaning Massachusetts as a somewhat unlikely model for the movement. “This demonstrates that charter schools are a viable reform,” said Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a nonprofit aimed at advancing the movement. “If it can happen in Massachusetts, it can happen anywhere.”…

The 107,000-member Massachusetts Teachers Association is likely to oppose the bill, said union president Paul Toner. Under state law, schools’ funding is linked to the number of attending students, so charter schools divert much-needed funds from traditional schools, he said….

Because other states look to Massachusetts—where students overall routinely rank at the top of national and international tests—for lessons on academic achievement and innovation, the Bay State’s policies on charter schools are being followed closely, former Florida education commissioner Gerard Robinson told charter advocates gathered in Boston recently.

Nationally, charter schools are educating more than 2.3 million students in the 2012-13 school year, 275,000 more than last year, the largest single-year jump since the movement began 20 years ago, according to the National Alliance for Charter Schools.

More than 31,000 Massachusetts students attend charter schools, an increase of 20% in the past four years. …

Unlike many other states, advocates say, Massachusetts’ governance system designates state education officials as sole authorizers of independently run charter schools, overruling local mayors and unions.

March 14, 2013

Even after recent reform, New York teacher pension costs will rise 37%

by Grace

A history of New York State public school pension reform:

20130309.COCNYPensionTiers2

Recent reform that saw the creation of Tier 6 is unlikely to offer taxpayers any relief for at least a decade.

Over time, lawmakers have passed legislation to reduce the cost of pensions to state and local governments and school districts. The avenue they have used to do this is to create additional “tiers”—levels of membership that carry different benefits and requirements. After the passage of Tier 5 in 2009, calls for pension reform persisted, and a new Tier 6 was enacted this year.

Gov. Cuomo has said that the recently enacted pension reform will save the state more than $80 billion over the next 30 years. However, according to the NYS Comptroller’s Office, the creation of Tier 6 will not significantly lower pension costs for schools in the immediate future to prevent the kinds of program cuts many districts face in the next few years.

This is because the new pension tier applies only to new employees hired after April 1, 2012. With school districts struggling to balance their budgets in this difficult economy, most are laying off staff rather than hiring new employees who would fall into the new tier.

Pension costs have continued to surge out of control, as I wrote last year.

… skyrocketing public pension costs are “the single biggest threat” to local schools’ ability to deliver educational  services for New York children.  In our local district, pension costs have risen more than 50% over the last two years and now account for 7.2% of the total budget, up from 5.1% in 2010-11.  This has meant ongoing cuts in student services as taxes are diverted to pay for pensions.  The trend is up, and by 2015 pension costs are expected to eat up 35 percent of property tax collections.

There is no relief in sight.  Teacher pension costs for the 2013-14 school year will rise 37%.

Related:

February 4, 2013

Despite increased education spending, surging pension costs only allow New York schools to ‘tread water’

by Grace

The 4.4% increase in school spending proposed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is not enough according to some education advocates.

Cuomo’s budget plan for the fiscal year that starts April 1 includes a 3 percent increase — about $610 million — in education aid plus $203 million to offset high pension contribution costs. An additional $75 million would go toward initiatives highlighted in his State of the State address.

Proposed funding barely allows schools to “tread water”.

“The year-to-year costs in education just to tread water are more than the amount of money in the proposed budget,” said Billy Easton, executive director of the labor-backed advocacy group Alliance for Quality Education. “If we actually want to improve the schools — that’s not even addressed here.”

Governor Cuomo argues that the 8.6% increase in education funding over the last two years has been double the inflation rate.

“That is double the rate of inflation,” Cuomo said in Tuesday’s address. “That is four or five times the increase in home values during the same period of time and it’s during a period of time where student enrollment has gone down.”

Schools across the state report that steep rises in pension costs more than cancel out any increases in proposed funding.

New Paltz Superintendent Maria Rice said teachers’ retirement costs alone at the Ulster County district are growing by about $900,000, so the $333,500 increase won’t come close.

The district would get about $12.4 million, a 2.8 percent increase from last year, when including building aid. The county’s average is 2 percent.

Based on the aid, Rice projects the district will have to cut between $800,000 and $1 million to balance the budget, which is “luckily” less than last year’s gap, she said.

The district cut its pre-K program and increased class sizes this year. Next year, she said she’ll debate whether to cut Advanced Placement courses or eliminate an elementary foreign language program which she said has been successful.

Some schools are considering taking advantage of a new “pension-financing plan”.

The pension stabilization option would give local governments and school districts a lower, more predictable employer contribution rate over a period of 25 years or more, rather than high bills now and presumably lower ones later.

Not everyone believes this new scheme will work, with some calling it a “threat to pension solvency”.

The state’s largest public union is right. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to “smooth” pensions for local governments and school districts is “a bait-and-switch scheme … that will allow public employers to underfund their pension obligations,” as the Civil Service Employees Association described it last week.

Kicking the can down the road
Instead of providing real mandate relief to remedy the unsustainable rise in pension costs, the governor is promoting a quick fix that will temporarily hide the problem until a few years down the road when it will resurface.  This has become a typical scenario among our politicians.

Related:

January 30, 2013

Quick Links – Union membership keeps falling; 4.4% increase in proposed spending for education in New York; our educational mess

by Grace

◊◊◊  ‘Union membership falls to 70-year low’ (The Detroit News)

Washington — The nation’s unions lost 400,000 members in 2012 as the percentage of U.S. workers represented by a labor union fell to 11.3 percent, its lowest level since the 1930s – declining by 0.5 percent over the last year.

Michigan accounted for about 10 percent of the nation’s loss of unionized workers as the Wolverine State fell to the seventh most-unionized state, from fifth in 2011.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the biggest hit was in public sector unions, where many states and cities have cut back on their unionized workforce.

Sharp difference between higher rate of union membership in the public sector and lower rate among private workers

Among public sector workers, 35.9 percent are in a union – down from 37.0 percent in 2011, as the public sector shed nearly 250,000 union workers.

The public sector union rate is more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers. In the private sector, 6.6 percent are unionized, down from 6.9 percent in 2011.


◊◊◊  New York State proposed budget increases funding for most local public schools

All Westchester County school districts except for three will received increased state funding under Governor Cuomo’s proposed 2013-14 budget.  Increases range from 17.5% (Hendrick Hudson) to 0.3% (Scarsdale).  Our local district will see its state funding increase by 5.8%.

The statewide average increase in proposed education aid is 4.4%, with “no broad-based tax increases”.


◊◊◊  David Solway schools us on the Educational Mess We’re In

David Solway describes the content-free, guide-on-the-side culture of today’s classroom using language that had me reaching for a dictionary a few times.  In the comments, he’s criticized for stringing “ten dollar words into sentences one has to read twice to understand”.  I would have to agree, but it was fun to read this twice!

This paradigm is instantly recognizable by the contents and procedures that dominate our public school classrooms: films galore, computer simulations, audio-visual devices, “testable competencies,” PowerPoint presentations, concept maps, information transfer, virtual whiteboards, expurgated texts, true-or-false exams demanding little in the way of written formulation of ideas, and so on. Teachers are trained to emphasize method, to prepare “instructional designs,” to focus on “techniques” of transmission, to valorize process instead of matter, to generate “lesson plans” rather than lessons — “That’s the reason they’re called lessons,” remarked the Gryphon in Alice in Wonderland, “because they lessen from day to day.” Meanwhile, since they are expected to be communicators rather than preceptors, teachers are regularly shunted around the curriculum and required to teach outside their disciplines — which, be it said, they have often failed to master owing to the institutional stress placed on tactics and delivery rather than on grist and corpus. Thus the poor geography teacher becomes a worse gym instructor.

Doubtlessly, the penchant for instrumental modes of teaching has been with us since time immemorial, but in the current climate it has been exalted into a hypothetically remedial ideology and institutionalized as a pervasive method of committee-backed instruction. It is high time we became aware, then, that despite all the media hype and the inundation of formulaic pamphlets, primers, and manuals which experts, specialists, and many public school teachers have unfathomably welcomed, and the misguided policy to hire 100,000 more ill-equipped teachers, the techniques that have become so popular these days do not work. As I wrote in Education Lost: Reflections on Contemporary Pedagogical Practice, “the fundamental premise at the bottom of modern educational theory, namely that teaching is a science whose operative concepts are those of storage, dissemination and skill-replication…is faltering badly, especially in those disciplines which are not data-based.”

At the very least, I learned a new synonym for “teacher”:  preceptor.  I wonder how long it’ll be before I figure out how to slip that word into my writing.

January 9, 2013

Quick Links – Top-paying jobs for community college graduates; no mandate relief in New York; high salary for high school principal; plus more

by Grace

◊◊◊ Top ten jobs for two-year graduates (Community College Spotlight)

The top job is an air traffic controller,with a median 2010 salary of $108,040.

ALBANY, N.Y. – Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Mandate Relief Council voted down 51 of 65 requests for help from local governments and school districts Tuesday, approving 14 suggestions for review of state mandates for special education and two other school issues….

The Council also recommended further study of a request to drop the state mandate for school districts with fewer than 1,000 pupils to have internal auditors on staff; and a state Education Department rule that mandates students get a “minimum number of minutes per week (seat time), by grade level and subject area.”

Requests to reduce the crippling pension costs were among those that were rejected.

They rejected requests to reduce the mandate to transport private school students; to reform teacher tenure and “last in, first out” work rules; to change the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law that keeps automatic teacher pay raises in place after a contract has expired; and to reduce the cost of public employee and teacher pensions. The requests included letting school districts create pension reserve funds, but that was rejected because it was an expansion of district authority, not a state mandate.

Also rejected were local government requests regarding the Wicks public works contracting law, health insurance contributions, restrictions on new unfunded mandates, tax cap exemptions, legal services for the poor and the MTA commuter tax.

Staff of the panel said that the rejected requests were beyond the scope and the authority of the council to decide because they were matters of state law, covered by local union contracts, or otherwise not a qualified candidate for elimination or reform.

I believe a constitutional amendment is needed to reduce pension costs, one of the most costly state mandates.  If that’s the case, the Council could have made that recommendation.  You can see a copy of the full report at the Mandate Relief Council site.

New York’s highest-salaried school principal, James Ruck, who has led Harrison High since 2006, will earn $245,728 this year, setting a new standard for a building administrator in the nation’s hottest market for education leaders.

Ruck, 68, the former schools superintendent at Suffolk County’s Sachem Central schools, augments his Harrison pay with an estimated $131,352 a year in pension payments, pushing his annual income to more than $377,000. Ruck, of Northport, intends to step down from Harrison in June

About 1,000 students attend Harrison High School.


◊◊◊
  ‘Motivation, Not IQ, Matters Most for Learning New Math Skills’ (Time)

But IQ does matter in overall math achievement levels.

… While some element of math achievement may be linked to natural inborn intelligence, when it comes to developing skills during high school, motivation and math study habits are much more important than IQ, according to a new study…

To their surprise, the researches found that IQ does not predict new learning — in other words, intelligence as measured by the IQ test does not indicate how likely students are to pick up new concepts or accumulate new skills. While children with higher IQs did have higher test scores from the beginning of the study, how much newmaterial the kids learned over the years was not related to how smart they were, at least not once demographic factors were taken into account.

“Students with high IQ have high math achievement and students with low IQ have low math achievement,” Murayama says. “But IQ does not predict any growth in math achievement. It determines the starting point.”

December 28, 2012

Under New York 2% tax cap, protected pensions will cause even more cuts to student services

by Grace

In New York, public schools are struggling with rising pension costs and a 2% tax cap as they plan for next year’s budgets. As the situation becomes desperate, one official warns that school security may suffer. 

School districts face a daunting challenge as they begin drafting budgets for 2013-14: Rising pension costs alone could eat up most or all of their allowable tax-levy increase under the state’s tax-levy cap.

“It’s debilitating for us, terrible,” said Thomas DePrisco, a member of the Pearl River Board of Education.

Pension costs will increase nearly 40%, forcing cuts in student services.

District contributions to the pension system for teachers and administrators are expected to rise close to 40 percent next year. This increase could translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars for small districts and several million for larger districts, which will require raising the tax levy by 2 percent or 3 percent in most districts.

Since the state cap starts at 2 percent before adjustments, most districts will not be able to increase spending in other areas, from health insurance to curriculum materials, without making equivalent cuts to programs and staff.

Students are being punished.

“The numbers are punitive, a shocker,” said Kendall Egan, a member of the Rye school board and president of the Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association. “You’ve already filled up your cap. It’s hard to make your community understand that there is so much out of the control of a school board. We’ll be back to going line-by-line through our budgets, looking for all possible savings.”

Pension contributions will increase to about 16% of payroll costs.

Under state law, all school districts outside of New York City must contribute a percentage of their payroll each year to two pension systems, one for teachers and administrators, and one for support staff. The percentages are determined by the two systems’ past investment performances. Next year’s contributions are tied to the period between 2007-08 and 2011-12, when investment returns were down.

The New York State Teacher Retirement System recently notified districts that it expects to raise their 2013-14 contribution to between 15.5 percent and 16.5 percent of payroll, up from 11.8 percent of payroll this year. The employer contribution has varied between 6 and 9 percent of payroll in recent years.

The TRS fund, which pays pensions to retired teachers and administrators, has $88 billion in assets. It is paying benefits to almost 150,000 people, up from 100,000 in the year 2000. Its active membership — those who will receive future benefits — has increased from 225,000 people in 2000 to 277,273 this year.

Schools will start with a deficit.

The Valhalla school district expects to increase its Teacher Retirement System contribution by about $930,000 to more than $3 million, while its Employees Retirement System contribution will rise by about $91,000. These increases alone will require raising the district’s tax levy by about 2.5 percent.

“We start the budget planning process in a deficit and wonder how we’ll stay under the cap,” Superintendent Brenda Myers said.

Teachers’ pensions were protected under the property tax cap legislation but student services were not.

The property-tax cap, going into its second year, starts by limiting tax-levy increases to 2 percent, but the number can go up or down depending on several factors. Pension cost increases over 2 percent are exempt from the cap, which is little consolation for districts that are up against the cap anyway.

Politician wants to give teachers even more protection.

Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, said she is considering proposing legislation that would exempt additional pension costs and perhaps tax certiorari payments from the cap.

“It could help stabilize the situation,” she said. “There are very real concerns about districts facing insolvency.”

‘rising pension and health care costs’ leading to ‘dangerous territory’

Ken Slentz, deputy state commissioner of education, said that rising pension and health care costs will result in people losing their jobs so districts can stay under the cap.

“Where are we headed?” he said. “Dangerous territory.”

Recent pension reform had little effect.

A key factor is that 86 percent of all teachers and administrators statewide are in Tier 4 of the pension system, meaning that they contribute 3 percent of their salary to the system for only 10 years and nothing thereafter. Tiers 5 and 6, created since 2009, require ongoing employee contributions but currently include only 8 percent of all members.

In a low blow that may have been meant to evoke fears related to the recent tragedy in Newtown, one official intimates that school security may suffer.

“The impact on our budgets is devastating,” Burrell said. “If we can’t raise tax levies, and taxes are already too high for many people, districts will have to make uncomfortable choices. Will districts have to choose between AP classes and security?”

Related:

December 14, 2012

New York proposes two new types of high school diplomas

by Grace

The New York State Board of Regents will soon vote on an initiative that would create two new types of high school diploma, thereby offering more options for different types of students.  One diploma would focus on STEM studies and the other would teach technical vocational skills.

The STEM diploma would include an advanced calculus course or extra science course for an advanced degree in technology. The CTE diploma would have students participate in specialized training programs, which could replace an elective or core course.

Some possible CTE substitutions for students to learn technical skills include a Federal Aviation Administration certification, a Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician certification or a National Occupational Competency Testing Institute Job Ready Assessment, Schumer said.

The lohud.com editorial board supports this initiative, citing the unwillingness of domestic employers to pay for such training.

Sunday’s “60 Minutes” report on the skills gap — three days later Schumer followed with his own related proposal to the state Board of Regents — noted that many U.S. manufacturers, competing with cheap labor the world over, no longer are willing to pay to train new workers for high-skill jobs; they expect school districts, community colleges, four-year colleges and other taxpayer-supported institutions to pick up all or some of the cost.

If approved, the new diploma programs may be in place as early as next school year.

This proposal appears to be a move away from the state’s recent emphasis on a single path for all students, an idea that was associated with the recent elimination of the less rigorous “local diploma”.  Now there’s recognition that “one size doe not fit all”.

“The Regents understand that one size does not fit all students. Too many of our students are forced onto a single graduation pathway,” Tompkins said. “Their skills and potential are stifled and they end up unprepared for success in adult life.”

Changes are needed for graduates to meet 21st century job requirements.

Schumer said his support follows employers’ accounts of gaps between available positions and skilled applicants. Industrial Support Inc. in Buffalo, for example, often has trouble filling job openings for machinists and welders, skills found along the CTE pathway, he said.

The state Labor Department, meanwhile, projected a 135 percent increase in STEM-related computer and electronic product manufacturing jobs in the Albany area from 2008 to 2018, anticipating the addition of 1,800 positions.

“As upstate New York’s economy switches gears towards the advanced industries of the 21st century, we need our students and education system to keep pace,” Schumer said.

CTE and STEM students would be exempt from taking the “notoriously difficult” global history Regents exam.

The state Education Department has proposed requiring a CTE assessment in place of a global history exam that’s required for students pursuing a traditional diploma. Those on the STEM track would substitute a second math or science assessment for the global history exam.

Students still would be required to pass a course in global history and to pass English, math, science and U.S. history exams.

Related:

November 23, 2012

School bus drivers collect unemployment benefits during summer break

by Grace

Bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and other public school seasonal workers in most states can collect unemployment benefits during the summer and other breaks in the year.  Although filtered through their employers and the state government, ultimately it is the taxpayers who pay for these benefits.  This extra compensation received during their summer break is not included the employees’ salaries as reported in school budgets and elsewhere.

Fair treatment or scam on taxpayers?
My first reaction upon hearing about this was surprise, followed by a realization that this was one of those fairness issues that often divides people on opposite ends of the political spectrum.  Rent control is another example of this, where I simply shake my head at how ridiculous it seems and others accept it as the fair way to treat tenants.

With many states struggling over budget issues, this issue is in the spotlight.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Should seasonal workers be allowed to collect unemployment checks in their downtime?

A growing number of states are saying no.

From school bus drivers to ballet dancers to lifeguards, many workers whose jobs only last for a portion of the year have traditionally been eligible for jobless benefits. But now states across the country are starting to crack down, trying to save money and rescue insolvent jobless funds.

Federal law gives each state the option to decide whether or not to allow seasonal workers to take benefits. Now strapped for funds, many states are stripping some workers of their eligibility.

For example, earlier this year, New Jersey Republicans introduced a bill that would require the state to identify specific seasonal industries that operate about 9 months of the year or less, and deny those workers unemployment benefits in the off-season.

Uh oh.  I know a school bus driver in New Jersey who looks forward to her unemployment checks every summer.  She may be affected by this.

Common sense

“Individuals who work in a truly seasonal industry know that the work will not continue past a certain time,” said New Jersey assemblyman Sean Kean, when he co-sponsored the bill. “Therefore, it makes sense to end seasonal workers’ unemployment benefits. This is a common sense measure that will save taxpayers and help the state’s unemployment insurance fund.”

Most states allow seasonal workers to collect unemployment benefits.

In all, about 15 states currently restrict the payment of unemployment benefits to workers who earned some or most of their wages in seasonal jobs. They all define seasons differently, some based on time frames and others based on industries.

How it works – teachers cannot collect, but bus drivers can

Federal law already prohibits professional athletes from accessing unemployment benefits between two seasons. Similarly, teachers who work directly for school districts have been ineligible to take unemployment during the summer, ever since Congress amended federal law in the 1970s.

But for other workers, it’s up to the states to decide. For example, private educational contractors — like bus drivers, crossing guards, janitors and cafeteria workers — have been entitled to unemployment benefits in many states, any time school is out of session.

Landscapers and construction workers can often apply for unemployment in the winter.

Entertainment workers like actors, stagehands, television producers, ballet dancers and opera singers sometimes collect between seasons.

And in some states, even workers in the hospitality industry can submit claims when the tourist season ends.

In the case of school bus drivers, I know  my New Jersey bus driver friend and I agree with Virginia state Delegate Manoli Loupassi.

“They’re not unemployed. They know they’re coming back. They always come back.”

Transparency
Our public institutions need more transparency, but unemployment compensation for seasonal public school workers is hidden from taxpayers, both as a cost and as compensation.  It is a source of inflationary spending.  It violates the spirit of  unemployment benefits as a safety net to help with the burden of “temporary, unanticipated spells of unemployment“.  It should be abolished.

It appears that seasonal workers in New York State can collect unemployment benefits.

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